Photodynamic therapy: An effective treatment for lung cancer?

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Photodynamic therapy: An effective treatment for lung cancer?

Question

Is photodynamic therapy an effective treatment for lung cancer?

Lorraine
California

Answer

Photodynamic therapy may play a limited role in lung cancer treatment — generally complementing, rather than replacing, other forms of treatment.

Photodynamic therapy begins with the injection of a light-sensitive medication into a vein. One to three days later, the doctor shines light of a certain wavelength onto the tumor from inside the body — typically using a thin, lighted tube called a bronchoscope, which is passed through the mouth into the lungs. The light destroys the cells that have absorbed the light-sensitive medication, as well as other cells in the area. The goal is to shrink or control the tumor, which can help relieve symptoms such as bleeding, shortness of breath and wheezing.

After photodynamic therapy, your whole body is sensitive to light. Generally you need to avoid any exposure to bright light, including the sun, for up to six weeks after treatment.

Photodynamic therapy isn't effective for widespread cancers or tumors that can't be reached by the light.

Last Updated: 2010-10-16
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